Neil Turner, Perth

Started turning when I was 19 on a home-made lathe using wood that I unearthed while tilling the soil. I’m really unsure as to the reason why I started; it was something that I enjoyed the more I explored.

A drive around galleries in the South West of Western Australia made me realize that my work was of a comparable standard and I began supplying galleries in the South West, Perth and Canberra with a range of natural edge bowls made from burls from the Goldfields of Western Australia.

I attended workshops whenever I could to develop my skills and with the encouragement of some very skilful artisans in Western Australia, namely Gordon Ward, Vaughn Richmond and Jack De Vos my skills developed.

It wasn’t until I attended some workshops with Steven Hughes and Vic Wood that opened my eyes to the potential of the wood lathe. Turning could be more than just making rolling pins and salt and pepper shakers; it could be used to create pieces of art.

I became interested in developing more artistic pieces using the inspiration from my farming background. This culminated in me sending some photos to Del Mano Gallery in Los Angeles USA on the advice of Vaughn Richmond. A phone call early one morning from the gallery owner resulted in me selling into the collector’s market. All the work sold in the USA is sculptured and textured.

I left the farm and moved to 10 acres of virgin bush south of Bunbury to pursue a different career, attending Dwellingup School of Wood, achieving a Diploma of Fine furniture making.

Living on the land as a farmer my earlier work was influenced by harmonies within nature. The quiet ripples in the sand left by wind, raging roaring swirling flames of fire and soothing eddies left by running water. Since moving to the coast my inspirations have changed, wonderful shapes of seashells, coral and fine translucent appearance and structure of some seaweed and sponges.

My work now reflects influences from my past and incorporates some elements of my present environment. Combining these ideas from past and present has proved challenging, bearing in mind they must complement one another and maintain a balance with itself.

I still rely on the wood to direct me, working with grain direction and pattern, blemishes and voids. The final destination is a piece that will inspire close inspection; thinking and feeling that the work is at peace in its surroundings.

Timber a living breathing organism that captures my imagination. The opportunity to express thoughts and ideas in a tangible creation that continues to react within its environment. To design and create in timber poses many challenges both in structure and integrity, but the pleasure I derive from my work is simple, a joy and passion to create pieces of work that I like.

Demos

Platter with Embellishment
Demonstrate a range of turning techniques, using the bowl gouge and scraper to turn a platter with wide rim suitable for embellishment. Discuss design elements to consider when making a platter. Contour of the platter rim and width is an important consideration. Undercutting the rim of the bowl to accentuate the edge. How to finish the base, the diameter of the base to achieve correct proportion and some carving options for the foot.
Design parameters for the coral and water motifs. Timber grain patterns to direct set out. Embellishment combinations and orientation. Embellishment selection.
Demonstrate the use of a micro motor and burs to create the embellishments. Speed settings for burs. Which tips to use to create different textures. Sanding options eg make your own.
Explore the use of many and varied burs and their potential embellishment options. Discover the artistic possibilities of these ideas, transforming them into a potentially different piece. Showing the techniques required and the finishing products to seal them.
Sea Urchin Box
Turn a small box with a difference, using a central post to locate the lid. Shape options that are available. Demonstrate the tools required and the necessary turning techniques. Run through the box making process avoiding the pitfalls. Drilling the hole to locate the lid. Tricks to get it right.
Minimize sanding to maintain crisp edges with good tool work. How to finish the base using protective measures in a chuck. For example rubber band, tape, cardboard and PVC.
Demonstrate the marking out procedure for the embellishment using the indexing facility on the headstock. Describe other jigs you can make to assist the marking out process. Tools required to complete the embellishment, differences between Dremels, Air tools and Micro motor Machines. Why I use a Micro motor machine. Discuss and demonstrate the range of burs required to complete each embellishment step. Which works best and why.
Sanding options; the use of various sanding discs, small barrel and flapper sanders to achieve the result I’m looking for. The finishes I would apply to the finished box, what may work.
Hollow Form with Embellishment
Talk about different design options, what shapes work better than others.
Demonstrate a range of turning techniques. Use of a bowl gouge to achieve the outside form. Create the dovetail for mounting in the chuck a couple of important points to remember. Run through the hollowing process. Drill pilot hole to work into. Use of various hollowing tools. How to achieve even wall thickness using a simple gauge. Sanding options for the inside, using a range of different sanding aids.
How to finish the base if you cannot part it off. Use of a friction drive and the tailstock.
Demonstrate the use of a Micro motor Machine and the many advantages over the other options available. Ease of bur change. Lack of hand piece vibration. Very quiet running when operating.
Good range of speeds. No flexible drive to contend with. Run through a few carving and embellishing options for this particular form and the range of burs required to create them.